Monday, March 11, 2013

Office Game: Dominant & Dynamic Kino For Power & Position

[While my personal life continues to explode in an unruly way, I decided to post a few of my almost-done posts in hibernation.  I've gotten a lot of questions about Office Game, thanks to the Formal Friday's and Female Social Network posts, so I thought it might be cool to discuss the role of Kino in Office Game.  I've got a couple of these, which hopefully will see me through to when I can write again.]

 Dominant . . . and Dynamic

We've discussed body language in terms of straight-up Single Game, Married Game and even alluded to it in some Office Game posts.  But a recent discussion has convinced me that there are some areas that could use more explanation, particularly about the role of kino in your Alpha Presentation in the office.

In any Game situation, you want to be a dominant figure – you want to be the Alpha.  But some who are still struggling with losing the last shreds of their Betatude don’t understand that how they physically present themselves provides HUGE contextual communication that women – and other men – simply can’t ignore.  And largely they are unaware of it.

When you are attempting to assert your Alpha Presentation in the office, paying close attention to attire (see: Formal Fridays) and social distance is important.  But ignoring some key elements of kino can take your spiffy powerpoint and your shiny suit and make you look like a slob.  When you are competing in an office situation (and you are, even if you don’t know it yet) with a number of women, then your physical presentation makes all the difference.  

There are two key points to keep in mind when dealing with your body language: you want to dominate, but you also want to be perceived as dynamic.  That is, when you enter a room you want to do so with unassailable Alpha-like authority . . . but you also want to me as dynamic and charming and inviting to your co-workers as possible.  Dominant authority without dynamic charm is boorish.  Dynamic charm without dominant authority is obsequious.  Neither one is a path to social and professional success.

When dealing in the modern corporate environment in which your female co-workers are clearly your valued colleagues as well as competitors, there are elements of this kinesthetic approach that give you natural social advantages just by being male.  Make good use of them.

Some of these we've covered.  Taking up maximum space, for instance, physically dominating the sphere around you is an excellent way to up your Alpha.  This is usually easier for us than women because we are generally larger and taller.  When you make gestures, do so in a broad way so that your gesticulations invade the personal space of those around you.  That’s a dominant move.  

More, a recent Harvard-Columbia psych study examining the role of two key hormones (testosterone and cortisol – cortisol is the “stress” hormone) demonstrated that people who held an expansive, open posture for two minutes had naturally higher testosterone levels from baseline, while people who held a tight, conservative, closely-bound posture, their cortisol levels (think of it as the “Beta Hormone”) were measurably higher.  Kino has more to do with your Office Game than you think.

Walk the Walk

When walking, for instance, doing so with the assumption that people will get out of your way is recommended – you’re important, you’ve got important places to go, and people should just naturally recognize that (and once you start doing this, some will).  You might be wrong, which will give you an opportunity to exhibit authoritative patience (a dominant stance), but that expectation will color how you walk . . . and what people subconsciously think about you and how you walk.

As a dude, this is a huge advantage.  For one thing, we don’t wear heels or nylons (at work, anyway – I don’t judge) which allows our stride to be longer and more decisive.  When a woman strides that way, she takes the risk of looking overly masculine and evaporates whatever perceptual advantage her confident stride might give her.  And when a woman expects people to get out of her way, she looks entitled and pushy, not authoritative. 

A simple way to undermine a female competitor’s position is to point out her gait or pushiness to her female co-workers (her male co-workers don’t care) or inferiors.  The fact that such an observation has been made by you, a mere male, will confirm every catty suspicion in that woman’s mind, and before the end of the day everyone will remember her as “that pushy woman”.  “Pushy” is not authoritative – it’s boorish.

Get With The Group . . . The Right Way

When you join a pre-established group of co-workers, don’t hover anxiously around the fringes – if you want to participate, gently shoulder your way in or say something witty and charming that convinces the group to part naturally and invite you in.  Glide in effortlessly, if possible, possibly by taking the elbow of your closest friend in the group and gently turning him to make room.

When speaking to a group, keep your head perfectly still while you talk.  Excess movements make you look indecisive and flighty – another natural advantage for dudes, in consideration of how many women feel compelled to flit their heads around like birds to see if everyone is paying attention to them. 

Speak slowly, deliberately, and in complete sentences.  It makes you seem thoughtful, while female co-workers have a habit of interrupting themselves, using inappropriate slang (or even baby talk – I’ve seen it), and getting off topic.  Don’t attempt to make yourself look smart by using long sentences – Alphas tend to use short, concise, complete sentences with a clear beginning and end . . . and don’t explain themselves unless asked.  This lends an air of personal authority that no mere title can provide.

Apropos to that, when you are speaking to someone, maintaining a nearly-threatening level of direct eye-contact increases your importance in their mind . . . while you acting disinterested and distracted while your competitors speak shows you have more important things to do (as should everyone else, than to listen to that idiot blather on . . . are we done here yet?).  Look around.  Check out that rack.  Scratch that itch.  You know you wanna.

Further, you don’t want to react to what your competitors have said – acting bored and distracted says more.  If you allow your reactions to her to be perceived, then her importance to you is also established by the casual observer.  Ignoring her or patiently enduring her while she speaks establishes your dominance over her.  Interrupting to make an important point or ask a question are ways of establishing dominance over a competitor.  Take a half-step forward when you do, as the physical movement attracts attention.

But don’t anxiously scan everyone’s face for signs of approval after you’ve spoken.  Alphas don’t give a shit what other people think . . . so obviously checking for reactions is not Alpha.

Taking a dominant position in an office or a meeting is a risk – but men excel at taking risks.  It’s a sign of a testosterone-heavy natural leader.  Women are far less likely to take risks, which often keeps their professional ambitions in check artificially.  Floating a couple of trial ideas you know won’t work, but are risky and demonstrably creative, for example, is a great way to establish your authority and willingness to take risks. 

The danger here is that when you present Alpha in the office, you run the risk of attracting social ire from those who feel you are inflating your status above its actual place.  Only the CEO can get away with acting like a CEO.  When you try to act like a CEO, you’re really acting like a douche bag. 

This risk is a lot less for men than it is women.  When a man makes an ambitious, risky move in his career, one that could conceivably elevate his status accordingly, then the irrationally overconfident demeanor is seen as daring and confident by outside observers.  The same emotions expressed by a female competitor are usually seen as her “getting big for her britches”, followed by sadly shaken heads.

Sure, it’s unfair – but it’s a competition.  Boobs are unfair, too, but we have to contend with those.  Women in general are promoted for their achievements.  Men in general are promoted for their potential.  Recognizing (casually) that your female competitor may have bitten off more than she can chew to the right set of ears is an ideal way of undermining everyone’s perceptions of her.  “Big for her britches” implies that she does, indeed, have limits to her capacity . . . while you do not.  That will also set the stage for her first few (inevitable) stumbles, and magnify everyone’s confidence in her ability.

For dudes, being underestimated is usually a good thing – we’re competitors.  We want to be underestimated.

For women, however, being underestimated means that they are also under-appreciated, that they aren’t getting enough attention, so they loathe being under-estimated.  When someone expresses doubt in a dude’s progress, it often makes him redouble his efforts and look forward to his day of vindication.  When someone expresses doubt in a woman’s progress, it doesn’t take long to get back to her . . . and the result can be devastating.  Women seem far more likely to let others’ perceptions color the choices they make. 

Your Face Is The Place

Don’t smile so much.  So many management books and seminars drill the importance of smiling in your work interactions, but don’t, not unless you have a genuine reason.  Betas smile because they are submissive.  Alphas smile because they are – rarely – amused.  When you speak, speak calmly and in short sentences, but smiling means you obviously DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON since this is business and business is serious.  A smile is a sign of appeasement, not amusement.  It’s a visual ass-kissing of the Alpha member of the group.

Which might as well be you.

 Just like in regular Game, in Office Game eye-contact is key.  If your boss is speaking, listen thoughtfully, especially if other people are watching.  When it’s time for questions, ask one that you know that your boss knows the answer to, and hold eye contact while you do it . . . and then look away.  If you lock eyes with a female competitor, DO NOT DROP YOUR GAZE.  Most women are more intimidated by being stared-down than they’re willing to admit, and when it happens unexpectedly it can be unnerving.  If she persists, slowly shift your gaze about one inch below her eyes . . . it makes you look more intimidating for no reason she can consciously see.

When Going Beta Is Alpha

So just when do you play dominant?  Not all the time – remember, you aren’t a CEO.  The two areas in which you want to focus your dominant presentation are when you need to strongly re-enforce your own status in the group, and when there is a power or position available that you covet.  If someone challenges your ability to do your job, you go dominant to re-establish your place.  If there is a higher position available, then making a dominant presentation is the easiest way to secure it over competitors.

So when is it actually a dominant move to play submissive?  This is a lesson most women don’t understand, and they botch it repeatedly because of this lack of understanding.  The “Fun, Fearless Female” of Cosmo fable often loses status and position because of their ovaries-to-the-wall attitude and inability to demonstrate the appropriate level of submission to a superior.  I once watched a woman talk her boss out of promoting her by assuming too familiar an attitude – being “just girls” doesn’t work well in a $15 million company.  And when this same woman treated a senior male VP like an equal, even to the point of correcting him about something unimportant – the consequences were staggering.

When speaking to or presenting to a superior, adopting an air of submissive respect is appropriate.  With men, treating them with respect and deference from a position of strength gains you respect and admiration in return.  With women, cordial and charming work best . . . but cordial and charming from a strong but submissive position.  When speaking with a male superior, you should leave him with the feeling that he has a potential follower.  When speaking with a female superior, you should leave her with the feeling that she has a potential ally . . . against the other women under her command.

Done properly, and you make your submission into a dominant act by enriching and ennobling your superior with your respect, deference, charm and strength.  Done poorly, and you look like an obsequious asshole. 

Many women have a really, really hard time with this – either because they are unable to distinguish themselves appropriately to demonstrate their strength to their superior, or because they shy away from self-promotion.  They sell themselves short or they go crazily out on a limb.  They advance themselves too boldly and look “pushy” or Too many of them just don’t understand: the key to a successful corporate submission is control.

The fact that men and women are perceived differently in the business world is pretty well understood.  While feminist decry this and attempt – in vain – to “smash the patriarchal system” that binds them to such horrors, dudes can exploit this for their personal and professional benefit.  


  1. Excellent post, Mr. Ironwood. Glad to see you're writing again, what with all the crazy that's shown up in your life, whatever it might be.

    To share a few personal observations on using game in an office setting: a little goes a long way. Small changes add up to really affect how one carries one's self. By that I also mean to imply that confident, alpha body language affects one's internal mindset as much, or more, than it affects others. This is a huge part of its appeal.

    One very small body language piece that made a huge difference for me was learning NOT to raise my eyebrows so much, either one sided, or both. I made this change, with a fair bit of conscious effort, after reading that several body language experts consider the raised eyebrows to be a submissive behavior. I stopped, and it feels good. Oddly, I was out shopping one day, and I perceived myself and my body language in a new way--I was no longer *trying* to walk and move in a confident fashion, I *was* moving in that fashion. It's a great feeling.

    I noticed that definite shift after a long period of working on my body language. It's helped in many areas of my life, including both dating and professional life.

  2. I wonder if the reason that careerist women struggle with the subtleties is because they've bought into the whole "we're all the same" trope, and therefore can't tailor their behavior to the sex of the person with whom they're interacting.

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